Ryder Cup 2018: A sporting spectacular you cannot afford to miss

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In a year that featured arguably the greatest football World Cup in history, it is entirely possible that the Ryder Cup will go down as the best sporting event of 2018.

This is a competition that elevates golf to new heights, even more dizzying than the magic of the Masters or the historic aura of the Open Championship.

Even those who would not readily identify themselves as fans of the sport invariably end up captivated by this titanic clash between continent and country, while a resurgent Tiger Woods fresh off his first PGA Tour win in over five years provides another element of intrigue and excitement.

True enough, the 2016 edition proved sufficiently one-sided to remove that element of competitive drama, the United States easing to victory by a six-point margin.

And there is talk of a similar outcome this time around at Le Golf National, with Jim Furyk's Team USA boasting, by many measures, the strongest line-up in Ryder Cup history.

But it is one of the tournament's many wonders that you simply cannot discount the underdog.

In any case, how much of an underdog can you be when you boast the newly crowned FedEx Cup champion and a combined total of eight majors, spanning all four headline events?

Team USA also carry the heavy burden of past overseas failures, with a quarter of a century having now passed since they last triumphed on European soil.

Throw into the mix skipper Thomas Bjorn's charmed relationship with the Ryder Cup – three wins out of three as a player, three from four as a vice-captain – and any notions about this being a foregone conclusion should rapidly evaporate.

It is a fascinating spectacle to see players who have spent the whole season competing against one another join as a team.

Despite being close friends, the likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Dustin Johnson remain largely inscrutable when playing together on the tour, constrained by the shackles of on-course rivalry and personal ambition such that the prospect of cheering one another's good moments is a remote one indeed.

But at Le Golf National, that ability and indeed willingness to revel in the successes of others will be unbridled. We will see professional golfers, the very best on the planet, act as fans do – relishing the quality of the play, consumed by the drama.

On both sides, men whose working pursuits so often lead them to plough a lone furrow, save for the solace of their caddies, will have team-mates at their side, a captain to lead them, and the undiluted support of millions.

That is the rarefied atmosphere in which so many great players have flourished and produced moments that have cemented the Ryder Cup's status as one of sport's most iconic events.